Sebastian Vettel took the chequered flag, with Mark Webber second, ushering in a new era of team domination for the sport.
Thierry Salvi, track support leader for Infiniti Red Bull Racing, remembers the race. ‘In 2009 I was Fernando Alonso’s engine engineer, working trackside for Renault F1 Team. In the previous couple of races, Red Bull had been strong and challenging for the podiums and when we got to China they were quick again and in quali Seb was ahead of Fernando by two tenths. You don’t do well in qualifying by chance, especially in the rain and we knew that the team was going to be on it in the race.
‘Come Sunday, Sebastian and Mark were miles ahead of everyone, even with the difficult conditions. For us in Renault F1 Team colours, it was hard to see a client team finish ahead, but motivating at the same time. We’ve always had a competitive spirit in Viry, and we wanted to get back ahead of our colleagues !
‘With our Viry hat though, it was fantastic that another team using our engines had win. We’d worked very hard to bring the V8 engine back to the level of 2006 when we had some margin of superiority. China is also especially hard for an engine supplier and that we could power a team to a 1-2 was very satisfying. It also showed we’d adapted the engine to another chassis and done it well.
‘China was really the start of the Red Bull era,’ remembers Thierry. ‘We had started to supply them in 2007 and in just two years they had gone from a relatively small midfield team to race winners. It was an enormous step. The feeling at Viry was that they were to be taken seriously and had serious ambitions.
‘I took over the trackside operations in 2013 and the pressure was huge – they had won three titles by then and wanted to keep winning. Joining a team with a winning advantage and keeping ahead is a very different type of pressure than joining at the start with nothing to lose. That ambition is still very much there.’